McALLEN, RGV – Now that McAllen has created a sleeker and more modern airport, the next step is using it to strengthen cross-border relationships to ensure economic vitality, according to economic leaders.

McAllen has completed its $26.5 million terminal expansion project at its International Airport in order to offer passengers a roomier, modernized and secure setting. Now the challenge becomes looking for a way to provide a link to cities in Mexico in order to attract business, according to McAllen Economic Development Corporation CEO Keith Patridge.

“There are certain key areas that for our industrial companies in Mexico, we need to have a more efficient and direct link with cities in Mexico. That’s what we are working on,” Patridge said. “The appearance and the service and the efficiency of the terminal are extremely important,” Patridge said.
“Even more important is to really focus on increasing the frequency and destinations of air service, (and) one of the areas we have been working on is to start looking at more direct connects into Mexico.”

The city announced the completion of the new expansion project at a special ceremony on Tuesday morning. In attendance were two congressmen, U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo and Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes. Also in attendance were Ana Garcia, the regional director for Sen. John Cornyn, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez, McAllen Airport Advisory Board chairman Ben Smith, Jesus Presas, the Transportation Security Administration’s federal security director, Mission Economic Development Corporation executive director Alex Meade and Rio Grande Valley Partnership executive director Julian Alvarez.

“Every major trade corridor has a major airport, and the expansion of the McAllen airport is benefitting the entire region,” said Meade. “So the fact that the federal government and different entities have made so much investment into this is a testament not only to the City of Mission and McAllen but the growth of the Valley. The fact that the City of McAllen keeps investing in this is going to help us make the Valley a stronger region.”

The expansion adds 55,000 square feet to the airport’s current 100,000 square feet of space ahead of the summer season. Funding for the project came various sources including a combined $12.4 million from the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration, $9.6 million from the airport’s Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) bond revenues and $4.4 million from local funds.

The project includes a larger passenger lobby, food court area, increased retail space, new baggage handling system and a redesigned TSA screening area.
The screening area will now include TSA pre-check in order to expedite passengers through the checkpoint. Those who are enrolled don’t have to remove their shoes, their belts or jackets and can keep their laptops as carry-on in participating airlines. A new checkpoint has the most significant equipment available including advanced technology x-ray machines and advanced imagery technology.

An airport is a snapshot of the economic vitality of a city and a region, according to McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. When visitors to the city arrive through the terminal at McAllen International Airport, their first impression will be seeing a region that is progressing, and the airport is key to that image, Darling said.

“When I travel, I can kind of tell how that city is doing when I go through their airport. That’s why it’s so important to us that we have an airport that symbolizes the economic vitality of our region,” Darling said. “That’s why we have the (RGV) Partnership here and the City of Mission. This airport is a snapshot not just for the City of McAllen, but for our region.”

Future projects are planned. By the summer, the airport will add extra parking, which will include the addition of a third exit lane, second attendant booth, and sheltered exit area. By winter 2015, the airport will complete its $10 million Runway Safety Area Improvement Project.

“I just think having another airport like this just strengthens the area with our Mexican nationals,” said RGV Partnership executive director Alvarez. “It gives us a variety of airports to travel, whether it’s international or within the state. What they are doing here is really important to the growth of South Texas.”